Friday, 25 November 2011

Clasping a Viper to His Breast?

It's amazing how bigoted people can be about certain animals. Alexander Chancellor, for example, can see no utility in the 'adder' unless their conservation can be used as an argument against the development of wind farms (which he likes even less) in his native Northamptonshire (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/nov/24/emulate-christ-tribunal-cheek-slapped?INTCMP=SRCH). He doesn't seem to appreciate, in his Chancellorocentric view of the natural world, that the snake only bites people and their animals when they pick it up or tread on it (it's a waste of its hard-generated venom as the snake can't swallow them). Vipera berus is an important part of the ecology of many areas, as it largely feeds on rodents with the potential to show population explosions. The snake's loss from areas is generally a sign that the environment has suffered from intensive agriculture or urbanisation. The adder is actually a beautifully adapted little beast with the largest geographical range (southern Italy to the high Arctic) of any reptile. It's a good job that Alexander doesn't live in India or Australia as the tiger or the shark would be respectively doomed.

2 comments:

MarkA said...

I've only seen an adder once, and that was about 30 years ago. Should be more of them about. We are very lucky in this country in having so few poisonous species, and those very mild by world standards.

I have heard that behind the Wallace Building at Swansea University, there used to be an experimental colony of adders. Was that in your time at the University?

Paul Brain said...

It certainly was. The snake pit was a nice reproduction of the Gower habitat with about 200 thermocouples for measuring temperatures. I had a mature student called Lionel Kelleway who was working on them. Unfortunately, he never wrote up and went into a media career.

Pat Bateson

I have just noted the obituary of Sir Patrick Bateson 1938-2017 ( https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/aug/14/sir-patrick-bateson-ob...